The Jon Jones comeback story has only just begun.
As a former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Light Heavyweight champion who is searching for career redemption after a hit-and-run incident in April of 2015, Jones' journey to reclaiming Octagon greatness is in its infancy. And considering current divisional titleholder Daniel Cormier recently pulled out of his fight with Jones at UFC 197 on April 23 due to injury, having been replaced by rising contender Ovince Saint Preux, "Bones" will have to wait even longer to reclaim a championship belt that he lost outside of the cage.
In a recent interview with Rolling Stone, Jones opens up about his outlook on his Octagon return and what it means to put the most traumatic year of his life in the rear view mirror.
"I've told my story 72 times to completely different groups, to complete strangers. There's something really freeing about being so real, open and candid with complete strangers and letting them judge you," said Jones. "It's helped me know who I am. It's helped me acknowledge the piece-of-sh*t qualities I had. Truth of the matter, I had some piece-of-sh*t ways. Still do have some. But at the same time, I have some really great qualities as well."
Jones will attempt to thwart the athletic presence of OSP at UFC 197 later this month on just three weeks notice. While there isn't much to gain for the pound-for-pound best fighter in the world taking on a lower-ranked opponent with zero title implications, Jones is still as focused as ever.
"I'm still on a journey to get back the belt I never lost. After I fight Ovince, me and Daniel's story picks right back up where it left off," added Jones. "I know what it feels like to be a champ already. To be sober doesn't compare. This is the happiest I've ever been, without the belt. Now, to be sober with the belt – that's going to feel like heaven."
While Jones has adopted a more seclusive personal life that includes sobriety and countless community service appearances, the 28-year-old understands that his journey towards forgiveness is only getting started.
"I'm only at the doorstep of earning my second chance," said Jones. "Doing community service was court-ordered. That's not earning a second chance. Being sober when you're on probation isn't earning your second chance. I got a lot of proving to do. It's a matter of actions. It's about my effort. I feel like I have a lot more work to do. The people who still hate me, they have every right to."